Brown Lemming + Jumping Mouse
Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse had become so interested that they decided they couldn’t afford to miss the next session with Mother Nature. Neither did either of them feel like making the long journey to their home and back again. So Whitefoot found a hole in a stump near by and decided to camp out there for a few days. Danny decided to do the same thing in a comfortable place under a pile of brush not far away. So the next morning both were on hand when the learning session began.
“I told you yesterday that I would tell you about some of Danny’s cousins,” said Mother Nature just as Chatterer the Red Squirrel came hurrying up, quite out of breath, to join the group. “Way up in the Far North are two of Danny’s cousins more closely related to him than to any other members of the Mouse family. Yet, strange to say, they are not called Mice at all, rather Lemmings. However, they do belong to the Mouse family.”
“Bandy the Banded Lemming is interesting because he is the one member of the entire family who changes the color of his coat. In summer he wears beautiful shades of reddish brown and gray and in the winter his coat is all white. He is also called the Hudson Bay Lemming.”
“Bandy’s tail is so very short it hardly shows beyond his long fur. He is about Danny’s size, and a little stouter and stockier, and his long fur makes him appear even thicker-bodied than he really is. He has very short legs, and his ears are so small that they are quite hidden in the fur around them, so that he appears to have no ears at all.”
“In that same far northern country is a close relative called the Brown Lemming. He is very much like Bandy save that he is all brown and does not change his coat in winter. Both have the same general habits, and these are much like the habits of Danny Meadow Mouse. They make short burrows in the ground leading to snug, warm nests of grass and moss. In winter they make little tunnels in every direction under the snow, with now and then an opening to the surface.”
“There are many more Brown Lemmings than Banded Lemmings, and their little paths run everywhere through the grass and moss. In that country there is a great deal of moss. It covers the ground just as grass does here. And the most interesting thing about these Lemmings is the way they migrate. To migrate is to move from one part of the country to another. You know most of the birds migrate to the Sunny South every autumn and back every spring.”
“Once in a while it happens that food becomes very scarce where the Lemmings are. Then very many of them get together, just as migrating birds form great flocks, and start on a long journey in search of a place where there is plenty of food. They form a great army and push ahead, regardless of everything. They swim wide rivers and even lakes which may lie in their way. Of course, they eat everything eatable in their path.”
“My!” exclaimed Danny Meadow Mouse, “I’m glad I don’t live in a place where I might have to make such long journeys. I don’t envy those cousins up there in the Far North a bit. I’m perfectly satisfied to live right on the Green Meadows.”
“Right you are Danny, you are well suited for where you live” said Mother Nature. “By the way, Danny, I suppose you are acquainted with Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse, who also is rather fond of the Green Meadows. I ought to have sent word to him to be here this morning.”
Hardly were the words out of Mother Nature’s mouth when something landed in the leaves almost at her feet and right in the middle of their session. Instantly Danny Meadow Mouse scurried under a pile of dead leaves. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse darted into a knothole in the log on which he had been sitting. Jumper the Hare dodged behind a little hemlock tree. Peter Rabbit bolted for a hollow log. Striped Chipmunk vanished in a hole under an old stump. Johnny Chuck backed up against the trunk of a tree and made ready to fight. Only Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Prickly Porky the Porcupine, who were sitting in trees, kept their places. You see they felt quite safe.
As soon as all those who had run had reached places of safety, they peeped out to see what had frightened them so. Mother Nature was smiling down at a little fellow just about the size of Whitefoot, and yet they had a much longer tail. It was Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse.
“Well, well, well,” exclaimed Mother Nature. “I was just speaking of you and wishing I had you here. How did you happen to come this way? And what do you mean by scaring these fine four-legged folks?” she said with her eyes twinkling. Nimbleheels saw this and knew that she was only having good fun with him.
Before Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse could reply Johnny Chuck began to chuckle. The chuckle became a laugh, and soon Johnny was laughing so hard he had to hold his sides. Now, as you know, laughter is catching. In a minute or so everybody was laughing, and no one other than Johnny Chuck knew what the joke was. At last Peter Rabbit stopped laughing long enough to ask Johnny what he was laughing about.
“I’m laughing at the very idea that such a wee thing could give us all such a fright,” replied Johnny Chuck. Then they all laughed some more.
When they were through laughing Nimbleheels answered Mother Nature’s questions. He explained that he had heard about the learning sessions, as by this time almost everyone in the Green Forest and on the Green Meadows had. By chance he learned that Danny Meadow Mouse was attending. He thought that if it was a good thing for Danny it would be a good thing for him, so he had come.
“Just as I was almost here I heard a twig snap behind me, or thought I did, and I jumped so as to get here and be safe. I didn’t suppose anyone would be frightened by little old me,” he explained.
“It was some jump!” exclaimed Jumper the Hare admiringly. “He went right over my head, and I was sitting straight up!”
“It isn’t much of a jump to go over your head,” replied Nimbleheels. “You ought to see me when I really try to jump. I wasn’t half trying when I landed here. I’m sorry I frightened all of you so. It gives me an odd feeling just to think that I should be able to frighten anybody. If you please, Mother Nature, am I in time for today’s session?”
“Yes, actually, you are,” replied Mother Nature. “Hop up on that log beside your Cousin Whitefoot, where all can see you.”
Nimbleheels hopped up beside Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, and as the two little cousins sat side by side they were not unlike in general appearance. The coat of Nimbleheels was a dull yellowish, darker on the back than on the sides. Like Whitefoot he was white underneath. His ears were much smaller than those of Whitefoot. However, the greatest differences between the two were in their hind legs and tails.
The hind legs and feet of Nimbleheels were long, similar to those of Peter Rabbit. From just a glance at them any one would know that he was a born jumper and a good one. Whitefoot possessed a long tail versus the tail of Nimbleheels was much longer, slim and tapering.
“There,” said Mother Nature, “is the greatest jumper for his size among all the animals in this great country. When I say this, I mean the greatest ground jumper. Remember when I told you what wonderful jumps Jack Rabbit can make, and if he could jump as high and far for his size as Nimbleheels can jump for his size, the longest jump Jack has ever made would seem nothing more than a hop.”
“By the way, both Nimbleheels and Whitefoot have small pockets in their cheeks,” said Mother Nature. “Would you please tell us where you live, Nimbleheels.”
“I live among the weeds along the edge of the Green Meadows,” replied Nimbleheels, “though sometimes I go way out in the Green Meadows. I do like being amongst the weeds best because they are tall and keep me well hidden, and also because they furnish me with plenty to eat. You see, I live largely on seeds, though I am also fond of berries and small nuts, especially beechnuts. Some of my family prefer the Green Forest, especially if there is a Laughing Brook or pond in it. Personally I prefer, as I said before, the edge of the Green Meadows.”
“Do you make your home under the ground?” asked Striped Chipmunk.
“For winter, yes,” replied Nimbleheels. “In the summer I sometimes put my nest just a few inches under ground, or often I hide it under a piece of bark or in a thick clump of grass, just as Danny Meadow Mouse often does his. In the fall I dig a deep burrow, deep enough to be beyond the reach of Jack Frost, and in a nice little bedroom down there I sleep the winter away. I have little storerooms down there too, in which I put seeds, berries and nuts. Then when I do wake up I have plenty to eat.”
“I might add,” said Mother Nature, “that when he goes to sleep for the winter he curls up in a little ball with his long tail wrapped around him, and in his bed of soft grass he sleeps very sound indeed. Like Johnny Chuck he gets very fat before going to sleep. Now, Nimbleheels, please do show us how you can jump.”
Nimbleheels hopped down from the log on which he had been sitting and at once shot into the air in such a high, long, beautiful jump that everybody exclaimed. This way and that way he went in great leaps. It was truly wonderful.
“That long tail is what balances him,” explained Mother Nature. “If he should lose it he would simply turn over and over and never know where or how he was going to land. His jumping is done only in times of danger. When he is not alarmed he runs about on the ground like the rest of the Mouse family.”
“This is all for now. Tomorrow I will tell you still more about the Mouse family. Have a good day everyone!” said Mother Nature as she went on her merry way.
- Have you ever heard of lemmings? Have you heard of their behavior to follow one another in large groups? This is caused by mass migration, or moving from one place to another, when they are in search of food. Sometimes when humans follow one another right behind the other someone will remark “you look like lemmings”.
- Mother Nature compares the Jumping Mouse to the Jack Rabbit in terms of how high and long he can jump. How high and how long can you jump? How can you measure it? How high and long can your family members jump? Talk it over and see if you can come up with a way to measure in your backyard or on the sidewalk. Then research the measurement of a Jumping Mouse and a Jack Rabbit to see in comparison (even though they are both much smaller than you!)